Getting SMILE LASIK in Seoul: My Experience & Results

It was five years since I first went to Korea and since then, I’ve always thought about going back in order to get LASIK eye surgery. I was interested all of the cost perspective, the skill and accuracy of the doctors, and additionally the thought of being able to go back to this magical land. Even during the past years, I kept seeing posts and pages that showed foreigners getting their procedure done and waking up with great results. It kept reminding me that this was something really great to do and worth it, if you had the chance. And now finally after making it half way across the world on my last trip – from India to Sri Lanka to Maldives and Abu Dhabi, I thought that it was logical to first go to Korea as a stop before that last flight back to Hawaii. Here is my research and experience and results of the SMILE LASIK procedure in Seoul, Korea.

Initial Reasons:

Seoul is the perfect place for LASIK or any other type of eye surgery because it’s not only half the price as it might be in the US or any other western country. But even though the cost is less, the standard of care is very high, with doctors performing many procedures year round and having a high required level of certification and credibility that lends itself to the very intense working environment of Korea When I met my doctors, they seemed all very professional and caring, and not overworked or tired. The attentiveness of the nurses and other outpatient workers is also high and I saw that in their professionalism.

To give some ballpark figures, it may cost around 2.5k to 3k per eye in the US to get this procedure. In Korea, the total procedure costs about that number for BOTH EYES – so it’s half priced. Of course the calculation of saving money would need to include the cost of flight, hotel, time off, and food and any further activities. Even if you aimed for a more luxury experience, you’d end up ahead monetarily. And then there’s the price of being able to explore another country like Korea for hikingsurfing, or the culture. And even if you didn’t like those activities, there could be the potential for skiing, sauna, shopping, food & coffee exploration, etc. Those things you may not be able to quantify, although they hold a lot of value. 

Which Clinic to Go to:

In Korea there’s a lot of eye clinics that you can go to. They are known for their LASIK eye surgery and dermatology. Anything related to vanity, they will likely have something to help fix the cosmetic issue. What I primarily looked at was the attention to detail and the ability to work with foreigners who didn’t know Korean, but could still get explained all of the surgery’s medical benefits and downsides in an understandable manner. This lead me to two different options:

B & VIIT Eye Center

Eyereum

I share the Google Maps location because here you can read the initial reviews of the place. Both are highly qualified and have good reviews. Both names were highly recommended on Reddit, which was also my go to research tool. I can link the specific pages I reviewed in order to make my conclusion of which clinic to go to.

My main concern boiled down to cost and specialty. While B & VIIT has very high reviews, I read that Eyereum specializes in SMILE LASIK. This is important because SMILE LASIK has better recovery times, is more modern, and is said to prevent the usual dry eyes complications that LASIK is known for. To live with dry eyes everyday is something that you have to consider and I’ve heard of many stories of patients regretting their decision because of this outcome. 

What I can also recommend is that you plan your trip to have more than a week and so those extra days you can visit different clinics to get different consultations and go with whichever doctor/clinic you feel most comfortable with. Note that an initial eye exam will likely cost somewhere near 50,000 KRW, which is about $36 USD. So you can’t go to all the clinics and have to limit how many you try. 

And what may happen is that you may read other Reddit posts or other reviews and that will completely swing you from one clinic or steer you away from a certain one. I know that I saw one for BGN and that had a bad review for that particular person. That one reading made me avoid looking into that clinic completely. 

I will link some of the threads I read at the bottom of this post. 

Cost in Korean Won:

I was given three different prices for my SMILE procedure. I was able to verify this as it was written on a printed out sheet that the nurse referenced.

SMILE PRO with special eye solution: 4.8M KRW – about 3.5k USD

Normal SMILE with special eye solution: 3,19M KRW – about 2.3k USD

Normal SMILE: 2.79M KRW – about 2.0k USD

The difference as said by the nurse is that SMILE PRO is like getting an iPhone 15 vs. regular SMILE is an iPhone 10. I chose to do the SMILE PRO and added on the eye solution because anything that will help your vision is worth the price for this one time procedure. The SMILE PRO is using the most up to date machine and uses lower energy with the laser and less time under the laser. These should mean better results because there’s only minimal amounts of work being done by a machine on your precious eyes.

The surgery can be paid by most credit or debit card. Just remind your bank that you are in South Korea and that you have a large purchase coming up. My first card didn’t work because of that and I had to call their US number while in Korea to get it unlocked. Luckily I used my Chase Sapphire card and that went through. Use the referral link, please!

Lead Up, Appointment, & Procedure:

Once I decided on Eyereum, I sent an initial inquiry email via their website. I got a response one day later (due to the time change) but they were very quick. This confirmed my appointment time and explained what the day and my trip may look like. They recommended at least a week time to do follow up checks and differences in the recovery medicine. It also explained not to wear anything on the face like sunscreen or to not use any perfume or cologne – and to wear loose fitting comfortable clothes.

IMPORTANT: once you know you’ll likely have eye surgery, stop wearing contacts and switch to glasses at least 5 days ahead of time. If you have special contacts, you may be asked to abstain for longer from contacts and to use glasses for longer instead.

The appointment was very quick. I was taken around the office to about 10 different eye stations and they recorded the results. This might have taken 30 minutes total. Then I was consulted with the same doctor who might be doing the procedure on my eyes. He explained the options that I had and recommended SMILE instead of LASIK or PRK. And then he also said that they specialize in SMILE and that if I decided on the other two, then they could do it, but there were other clinics available that were recommended for that type of surgery. 

After consultation, I went to the coordinator nurse who explain the cost and asked which procedure I would go with. Once I said SMILE PRO, then then repeated the different tests with another eye specialist. I was then taken to a different floor where the machines and procedure would happen. 

The surgery itself only took perhaps 10 minutes and the entire lasering of the eye was a mere 7 seconds. There was about 1 minute of my cornea moving around where I had no vision except for a weird white ball light that was being tugged by some operating instrument, and then they placed everything back and I could immediately see again, except with a sort white veil look in my eyes. Everything was in focus though directly after the surgery and the doctor said directly “everything went perfect”. I got all the explanation needed from the nurses and got my prescription from the bottom floor of the building. Then I took the metro home 7 minutes away. I think in 20 minutes I was home and lying in bed adding in all the various eye healing drops that you need to use every 30 minutes to an hour. 

TIPS and How the Procedure Actually Goes:

If you schedule the procedure for later in the day, then you may get a better nights sleep. I stayed up for as long as I could because then I could keep adding in the various eye solutions that would promote healing. That gave me a whole 6 hours of open eyes healing, which I think is better than going directly to sleep, but short enough that it is not going to make for a long day. 

By the next day my vision was clearer but still not 100% in focus. When I got to the doctors office about 24 hours later, everything was in focus and they confirmed that I had 20/16 vision in my right eye and 20/18 in my left. It was a success.

The doctor will explain the procedure, but here’s some tips and more detail: After they bring you to the operating room, they’ll give you a gown and you’ll put that on. They start to put numbing eye drops and after a certain eye drop, they will want you to close your eyes so the medicine will work. The nurse’s English was not very good for this part as she put an eye drop in and said “close your eyes” and I did, but then opened them back up waiting for the next drop. One point you’ll want to have your eyes fully closed for a few minutes. The doctor then takes you to a small white machine and marks with a pen (touching your eyeball) the area he will do the incision. This is very light but you want to keep your eyes open and not blink. They bring you to the operating room and lie you down. You want to stare into the green laser dot, and they’ll insert a speculum to keep your eyelid from closing. Then they’ll flush your eyes with antibacterial solution and apply a suction to the eyeball. This will feel like your eyeball is being pulled slightly. The laser is turned on and you’ll not want to move your eye. That takes 7 seconds and is quite quick. The best recommendation is that you choose a point to stare at and then loosely hold it in that place while the laser does the work. The doctor then inserts his tool and tugs at your eye slightly. This is when you can’t see, except for a white light in the distance. It takes about 30 seconds or a minute. Continue staring into space and not moving. Doctor will then smooth down the incision and you’ll be able to see again. They may throw in a vitamin solution and other eye drops, but that eye is completed. 

All during that time the doctor will explain in English what is happening and tell you not to move. It was clear to me what he said and what stages we were in so that I didn’t worry during the procedure. 

Post-OP Procedures

The doctors will prescribe various eye solutions for you to use. Please follow it to the tee. They will then schedule you for a one day follow up and a week follow up and potentially further ones if you’re still in Korea for longer.

The eye solutions do run perhaps 60-80 USD extra (times 2 for the change) so budget that in mind. They will switch it once they confirm that you have healed correctly. The papers they give you are in English and easy to follow regarding the timing of each type of eye drop and how to use it.

went to the surf park three days later but it’s not likely advisable to do so. In any case, please use extra antibiotics and eye serum for your eyes. 

They do eye exams on both follow up visits to reconfirm your vision. 

Non-surgery related: These were all the photos I took in the following days. They are completely the same as how I saw them without glasses or contacts.

I didn’t have trouble seeing at night (which is a common side effect of the surgery), but I also haven’t experienced high beam lights from a car yet, which I’ve heard is the worst.

Finally, good luck with your procedure and let me know if you have any questions! If this helped you in anyway, please consider helping my page through any of the links or directly message me for anything. 

Be aware that these eye surgeries do have downsides and potential complications and so you’ll want to research those issues ahead of time before making your decision. I hope for the best for you!

Links:

Location:

Eyereum is located in Gangnam – a more upscale part of the city. This office building is located right outside the main Gangnam metro station and even has a connection underground via one hallway that leads to the pharmacy where you can pick up your eye medicine after the eye procedures/eye checks. The metro level is B2 and the eye office is on the 7th floor of the building. If you need more directions, you can look into Naver Maps App on your phone. Nearby there’s tons of restaurants, shopping, and coffee, so you’ll be covered if you need anything. 

I stayed near the Seoul University of Education, which is one metro station away – about 20 minutes walking and 7 minutes by metro total. That area is actually really nice with 24h restaurants that serve good food, good walking areas, and not confined by the more business buildings that other parts of the city have. I can share the name of the stay, if you wanted to know. Send a message to me.

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